The Nestlé art collection: a revelation

Art
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Ulla von Brandenburg, Sich schminkender Mann 1 & Mann 2
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Jean Tinguely Pandémonium agréable et silencieux
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Peter Fischli & David Weiss Surrli, 1991 Cibachromes
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Ferdinand Hodler, Le Grammont
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Christo, Running Fence

A collection inspired by an inspirational building, Jenisch Museum Vevey presents Origins and Horizons of the Nestlé art collection

In 1960, when Nestlé built its world-acclaimed ‘Y-shaped’ headquarters in Vevey - still considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Switzerland – its author, Swiss architect Jean Tschumi, commissioned works of art for the site and suggested that the multinational start an art collection.

More than 50 years later, and in celebration of the multinational’s 150th anniversary, Musée Jenisch Vevey hosts the Nestlé art collection in its home town, and it's a treat. Visits are also organized to view the on-site commissions in and around the Tschumi building, including a sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly.

From the 300 or so pieces in the collection, museum director, Julie Enkell Julliard has chosen to display around a hundred works and she has made an astute choice. The selection reveals how the best was secured from abroad, as long as the same was done in Switzerland.

We discover how works by Andy Warhol, Picasso, James Turrell, Christo, Annette Messager and Sol LeWitt are at ease on the walls of the museum with paintings by homegrown artists Ferdinand Hodler, Jean Tinguely and Jean-Luc Manz. By choosing to include a small sculpture by the facetious and indefinable Swiss duo Fischli & Weiss that depicts four women in executive suits, the curator is also gently poking fun at the Swiss corporate world that so rarely allows women access to boardroom positions.

There are other surprises in the exhibition, such as a 1989 letter from Sol LeWitt who declines a commission on the grounds that Nestlé has not eradicated its troubles with the World Health Organization and that “there are aesthetic problems with the Nestlé building which are too difficult to deal with”. Arts patronage rarely comes with such honesty.

The Jenisch exhibition reveals how an inspired architect, Jean Tschumi, inspired so many others. He died on a night train returning from Paris two years later at the age of 57. A documentary film in the exhibition shows how he built the Nestlé headquarters on girders that give the impression that the massive construction walks on air. It makes for fascinating viewing.

By: Michele Laird

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